Monday, 31 December 2012

Keep it simple

Our Christmas tree, complete with the
parcel I tried to post before Christmas
Christmas is an emotionally challenging time as everyone knows and such was the case in our household. The first challenging time was the christmas tree! Not sure why this is an annual ritual for minor irritations, but it is. First there is finding one, not so hard now we have our own land and plenty of weed seedlings to choose from of various sizes. The challenge this year was finding one that was not too big. Isn't it funny how they look much smaller out in the field than they do in the house. I remember once earmarking the tree that was growing in the middle of our hedge outside our house one year in Denmark. It was part of a bush where it seemed like it was starting to revert to a different type of tree - hard to explain, but there it was growing out of the middle of a bush and I cut it out and brought it inside, only then did I realise how tall it actually was and it touched the ceiling. Fortunately in this case we had more than enough room for it and it looked rather splendid in our large Danish lounge. Now we live in an apartment the room is smaller and not so much room for a tree, not without blocking the light from the window anyway and that is too close to the radiator anyway. This year we got it just about right and hauled the thing home. Our white and very cold start to winter though meant the tree was covered in a thick layer of ice and there began our troubles. Ian was stood in the hallway with a now dripping tree and we couldn't think where to put it for it to melt. We have a basement, but didn't really want a puddle down there and so in the end we decide the shower cubicle would make the perfect place to put it, only the tree was wider than we thought - well something had to be wrong with the size didn't it! After removing the shower doors and much huffing and puffing from a certain someone we had the tree in the shower and I mopped up the floor from ice that had already melted.
Made by some ladies from our Danish Church

Another Danish Christmas ornament

A Latvian walking stick and a wooden ornament from the UK

One of the angels I bought whilst in America

Oh yes and he makes an appearance
every year too now. A freebie
from Denmark during a shopping spree
Well the saga continues, we had intended putting up the decorations on Christmas Eve, as I mentioned in last week's blog and my traditional day for putting up the tree, but as it was a Monday I decided my blog came first and got that done and dusted, then the problems started. As I mentioned before our electric supply has had one or two issues just lately and this day was another such day. I had just started to finish off making some croissants from the dough I had started during the day when the electric went off and I ended up finishing them off by candlelight and putting the ones I wanted to freeze outside on the balcony under a box as we didn't want to open the freezer while the electric was off. At least there wasn't a huge amount of difference in temperatures to a freezer at the time. It took a little longer than anticipated as it is not easy working in candlelight and there was no way we were going to be able to sort the tree out in the dark and so abandoned the job and went to bed a bit earlier. On Christmas morning we gave each other our presents and when I gave Ian his, he opened it and said "Oh a toaster!" My first thought was, "oh he doesn't seem to appreciate it as much as I thought he would" and I was a little disappointed. He continued to open the box and he exclaimed "Oh it really is a toaster!" and then the penny dropped. He thought I had done a common trick in our household of wrapping something small up in a lots of wrapping inside another box. Not sure if he was secretly disappointed that it wasn't a Tupla bar (chocolate bar) though. At least when we get electricity out on the land, he can have some warm toast to eat. Still waiting for that, but it is Christmas after all.

No Christmas is complete without a nativity scene is it,
with of course a few onlookers like Dally Llama, some
rather oversized fluffy sheep and Bagpuss
We also had a poorly pussy cat! Mind you she deserved it entirely. She is in the habit of eating too fast, if you put something down it hardly even touches her lips as she hoovers it up. We resorted to giving her the largest dried cat food we could find in order that she doesn't wolf it down in three scoops and actually has to crunch at least some of it. Well she got in the kitchen and wolfed down half a small margarine tub of turkey fat. A little later she was a bit antsy and then proceeded to do a projectile vomit, narrowly missing the embroidery I have been working on, on and off, for the last year for my parents. It was all cleared up but the sofa cushions needed a wash as she puked on one of them and then walked through the greasy patches and onto the furniture - or she had it on her feet anyway not sure which. It wouldn't come out with sponging and so I had to resort to putting the covers through the washing machine with the worst cushion taking two attempts to wash it out. The floor needed two further washes as I could see little greasy marks all over it! Not what I planned to do with my day. Question is, will she learn her lesson? I doubt it, although she didn't eat anything in the morning - guess she didn't need any extra calories after all that. Whilst cleaning the furniture though I also managed to spill half a pint of cleaning fluid over the area with Ian's computer on and to say I was panicking would be putting it mildly. Fortunately nothing actually got to the essential components and it was fine, but not my heart I think! Oh boy! I can do without shocks like that.

The embroidery that the cat narrowly missed. This includes
all sorts of textile memories from grandmothers. There is
even an unfinished bit of hairpin lace, still on the hairpin
I mentioned last week that the post office was shut for longer than I anticipated but finally this week some books I had ordered had finally turned up, but the one ordered at the end of November didn't. We are still waiting for for my Mum's present to us as well, although that might have turned up Friday but guess what! The post office is shut until Wednesday. One of the books that turned up and was ordered from The Book Depository was not in perfect condition when it arrived. It had four loose pages in it and yet no other obvious signs of damage. I decided to email them right away and see what they would do and, to give credit where credit is due, within hours we had an apology and promise of refund. Pity I can't say the same for the book ordered from Eurospan, I haven't had a reply from them as to where the book is from my November order, despite sending two emails now. I have tried again today using a different way of contacting them, so hopefully I will get a response soon.

This close up shows the hairpin lace (top right), a crinoline
lady, one of many to grace tablecloths and mats as well as
a reminder of the crinoline lady cakes my Nan used to make.
There are also some bits of embroidery done by me at the
age of 16 and some of the multitudes of lace crocheted by
my Gran (or at least I think they were done by my Gran)
We did get a little Christmas present from the wild boar again, fortunately not as bad as the last time and the hunters have been notified but since the wild boar haven't been back and it is Christmas we haven't hassled them. We weren't really wanting to receive presents from the wild boar but I don't think the melting snow has helped. Deep snow keeps them in the forest but the receding snow due to the increasing temperatures tempts them out. We went from  a nice but chilly -15C during the day on Christmas Eve to a rather horrid wet rain hovering up and down around zero for Christmas Day. Not nice at all and that has been the pattern for the week and means we now have some rather slick conditions.

A gift winging its way to the UK for the arrival of a
grandchild due ever so soon!
Well our Christmas was quiet and wasn't without incident, but really it wasn't too bad at all and we can laugh about it. In fact it went rather well, not only was our Christmas meal rather tasty and mostly local grown from the free range turkey from one of our good friends, to the sprouts we unearthed from under the snow during our extreme gardening expedition last week, to the parsnips, carrots and potatoes from our stores. All went down rather well with our Yorkshire puddings followed by a sticky toffee pudding. We got to talk to friends and family over the Christmas period too, thanks to the wonders of Skype but best of all we got to hear of our youngest's engagement to his lovely partner.

With a teddy in a knitted cocoon. Well every child should
have a teddy
So what do I hope for in the next year? One of the issues I picked up on this week on the internet was the issue of healthy farms. The answer is not necessarily to go to a meat free diet, although a reduction on the amount might not be a bad thing, but to get back to grass fed meat, where the animals are part of an integrated system on the farm. Animals are an important part of the ecosystem on a farm and reduce the need for bought in fertilisers that then pollute the water table. Animals in large industrial units lead to their own problems of waste, which would be far better utilised if they were spreading the waste themselves evenly over the grass land they were feeding on. A study by Iowa State University has shown the value of a more integrated system, not necessarily a return to old fashioned farming, but close. Farming that integrates animals is not a step back if used intelligently
The results were stunning: The longer rotations produced better yields of both corn and soy, reduced the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides by up to 88 percent, reduced the amounts of toxins in groundwater 200-fold and didn’t reduce profits by a single cent.
Another blog argues that animals are needed not just for our emotional well being, but also our spiritual well being. Well we have introduced animals into our ecosystem this last year and it has meant some huge changes, but not the sort of changes that we would want to do without as we have observed and laughed at their antics. Hopefully our animals will also improve the fertility of the land with their waste as well as the chickens providing us with meat and eggs and the alpacas with wool. We are already planning on increasing our chicken stock for next year and seeing where we are going to go with the alpacas. We have much to think and plan for next year, that's for sure. At least we had progress on the egg front, we got another egg this week, the first since our debacle of managing to cull the only productive hen we had.

Close up of teddy made from an old
woolly scarf
What else do I see in the year ahead generally? Well I see more things coming to light that people have tried to keep hidden, but beyond that - not much! We have made life too complicated, something that seems to be a recurring theme amongst a few bloggers (Paul, Liz, Diane and here, Steve). We have looked to celebrity pastors/prophets etc., we have looked to them for words for us, looked to them for guidance. Jesus came to break down the divide between us and God, not institute a new hierarchy. If I have one word for any of you it is this, seek the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and love others as yourself. Unpack that and listen to the voice within. God has given us his Holy Spirit to listen to, he is closer than anything we will ever know, we don't need constant words from others to know what God wants us to do, although he may use others to speak to us, and sometimes he surprises us by the people he uses. Just as Elijah was surprised that God would feed him using crows to carry his food, don't despise the way God chooses to speak to us, it may not be as glamourous as we would wish but it will sustain us.

So on that note I wish you all a very Happy New Year, and my God bless you richly in love, and peace.


Liz Eph said...

May you know God's presence with you, his guiding hand, his love and assurance, his strength and his joy. xx

Mavis said...

What a full and active year you've had - new animals and a number of visitors. May you have an equally productive year in 2013 blessing others and being blessed.

Joanna said...

Thank you Liz, I appreciate that

Joanna said...

Thank you Mavis for the blessings, it has indeed been an active year.

Gina said...

Wishing you a happy new year Joanna.

ju-north said...

I'm constantly amazed by the amount of work you both do! May God continue to lead and bless you in 2013 - may the adventure continue!

Joanna said...

Happy New Year to you too Gina. Hope this year is much better than the last for you.

Thanks for the encouragement Ju and a big Amen to that. So when are you coming out to see us?

Liene said...

Found you via your comment on And Here We Are, it caught my eye that you're in Latvija, the country my grandparents are from. I've enjoyed looking around, it is interesting to see our little country through another's eyes... Laimīgu Jauno Gadu!!!

Joanna said...

Nice of you to drop by Liene. A very Latvian name too. I'm glad you enjoyed the view of Latvija and a Happy New Year to you too.

karen said...

wonderful post and I did chuckle at your tree escapades....sorry!! A very happy 2013 to both of you x
love the embroidery too!

Joanna said...

Glad it made you chuckle Karen and you liked the embroidery. You inspired me to get going on it, I have been going to do one for years and just never got around to it.

A very Happy New Year to you too and may 2013 be all that you wish it to be.